Those Were the Days, My Friend

March 22, 2009

Dearest Stella,

Let me take you back, way back.

The place: Wendy’s. Johnston, Rhode Island.

The year: 1989. My senior year of high school—the year, as we all know, when it is least important to be cool.

At Wendy’s, the burger smell permeated my hair and clothes. I still remember the giant trash bag, nearly the size of my whole body, filled with “fresh” salad. It was one of my jobs to dump it in the salad bar bins. I would watch the burger-flippers flip burgers on the floor (purposely), then scoop them up and back on the buns and laugh as they added lettuce, tomato, and their own version of “special sauce.” I would stand at the register, watch the people stare at the menu.

“Can I help you?” I’d ask politely.

“Ummmm…” They would stare and stare and stare and stare, “Ummmm….”

I became, during this time, intimately acquainted with the inside of people’s noses. For some reason, maybe I was shorter than them or the menu was the perfect height to angle their faces just so, I had a perfect view of this most private orifice. Some people contemplated the menu with fingers pinching lips together; others pulled absent-mindedly on earlobes; other fingers—I swear— came very close to picking the noses themselves. People travel to some strange inner worlds when they’re trying to decide between the cow and the chicken. I imagined the cow as the devil on one shoulder, the chicken as the angel.

“I’d do the large fry if I were you,” the devil cow says.

“Don’t do it,” says the angel chicken,” You’ll regret it in the morning.”

“Pick it,” says the cow, “Your nose. Just pick it quickly, no one will see.”

“Don’t do it,” says the chicken, “the girl behind the counter is watching.”

One day, I was on duty “out on the floor.” I was on my hands and knees, scraping the crud off the bottom of the table legs (while people were sitting and eating—not right, I know, but what’s a working girl to do?) The man at the table I was “cleaning” looked down at me and said,

“You’ll make someone a fine housewife someday.”

Really. He said this.

(And somehow, I still love people.)

Clearly he was not prophetic.

But the real place of learning was the men’s bathroom. (And here I can attest to the fact that cleaning toilets is, indeed, a “skill” position). My best friend Shayna knew the ropes at Wendy’s. She taught me how to clean the urinals by madly shooting the spray bottle, much in the manner of these fine women:




Except, the Wendy’s uniform was a bit more confining (Did I mention this was 1989?).

They say such jobs are “character-building.”

Thank you, Wendy’s, for making me:

1. A vegetarian
2. A terrible “housewife” (yes, that’s right, I blame you)
3. A mean sharp shooter
4. A speedy food orderer
5. A lover of clean toilets, low-waisted pants (I mean really, look at the height of those Dickies), and salad from a bag.



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